Today, a great lesson in the rules of perception…

About a week ago, this happened: when asked by a woman TV reporter at the Etiwanda Fire – “Sir, do you live around here?” – a shirtless, 30-year-old Clay Narey replied: “Yeah. Wow, you’re super pretty. Do you wanna go on a date sometime?” (see video below)

Big deal.

Except that this was live news. And the guy didn’t have a shirt on. And he was carrying a little dog around as a raging crazy fire, the magnitude and severity of which only a person from Southern California can truly comprehend, loomed in the background. And this was the 909.

The 909, or the I.E. (Inland Empire), is basically the entire east desert area of Los Angeles – anything past the 605 through Palm Springs, south of the Cajon Pass/Glen Helen, and north of maybe Temecula (the southern boarder if the I.E. is kinda fuzzy) is fair game for inclusion…

The area holds many incredible gems: the Claremont Colleges, Puddingstone Lake, UC Riverside, the Mission Inn and Glen Ivy, and – most importantly – Raging Waters! (which you may know as Waterloo in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) But the 909 has also been overcome with stereotype – think FOX Racing, methamphetamines, and heat like you can’t imagine. Put simply, a third local euphemism for the 909 is The Valley of the Dirt People.

Not nice.


(pictured: Puddingstone, image via Google)

Anyway, Clay was quickly branded “Shirtless Bro,” and his impromptu request was widely watched (and ridiculed) ’round the interwebs as quintessential 909.

Except that he’s not.

A reporter from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin took the time out to track Clay down and see what he’s really all about. This is some of what he found:

[Clay] was born and raised in Huntington Beach and has lived in Rancho Cucamonga off and on. He was in the Marines from 2003 to 2007, with two tours in Iraq, and fought in the Battle of Fallujah. He has a Purple Heart. (here)

Clay has only been living in the 909 full-time for the past month.

I found this entire situation to be a really interesting lesson in stereotype and the rules of perception. Rather than ridicule, couldn’t we have just as easily focused on the kindness of carrying the little dog (who was probably terrified) and the fact that Clay was bold enough to ask the chic out..? Because if you’ve ever seen one of those fires, you know that it could have very easily been their last day on earth.

Read “Shirtless Bro: a clothes encounter with 909 celeb” in full here – it’s really worth it.

Need some insights on society, social justice, and the rules of perception? Make an appointment for consultation services right here.

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You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, Ph.D.”

3 thoughts on ““Shirtless Bro,” the 909, & our rules of perception

  • May 11, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Interesting. And perceptive. Not being from the West the location references are unfamiliar, but they are certainly nationwide. I expected from your headline a Cosmo-ish piece about whether it is appropriate for men to approach women shirtless, and instead find a essay on much more than that. It is thoughtful and thought provoking. We are living in a time when “those neighborhoods” will surely sprawl further, and the group lucky not to be living in one will shrink. Vet or not, shirt or not, the next American sprawl will be largely jobless. This is not a political statement, it is a reality wrought by the web and “progress” I am afraid. Years ago social theorists thought the computer would bring us a life of leisure. They forgot to figure out exactly how that “new leisure class” would afford to live, support their family and even yes, buy shirts. The people who designated this fellow “Shirtless Joe” better learn to speak Mandarin, study very hard and get comfortable with the rest of the world, because we are headed to a country here where shirtless Joe and his environs are the norm.

  • May 11, 2014 at 8:38 am

    @Jim – interesting and perceptive right back at you! Aside from the mechanics of the situation, people really seem to want to distance themselves from their perceptions of Clay and others (perceived to be) like him, but to what end? As you say, he and his ilk are spreading… and they are spreading within the context of global and local economies that can no longer sustain him, nor do they care to. We are all in for a very rude awakening in the very near and foreseeable future.

  • May 11, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I believe so. I read yesterday Barnes and Noble has a year left (the article said use your gift certificates now) That would mean printers, out of business. Shippers out of business, Stockers? Binders? Clerks, Shelvers…all due to the glory of the internet. Same thing happened to all the folks involved in packing, shipping and stocking records and CDs. All gone to the web. Exactly what “909ers” and their ilk (by definition what USED to be the upwardly mobile middle class we prided ourselves on accomodating…are doomed to drown. Today’s corporations can do quite well with shirtless workers around the world who will work for ten times less than the cost of our workers and this seems inevitable to me, as dreary as it sounds. Plus, one kindle is the equivalent of shipping, packing, labeling and selling 2500 books. Doesn’t take much labor to make them, or to deliver a digital book. Even the paperboy is gone, and that was traditionally the entry into the workforce for many a young boy. Gone to the screen.

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